Monday, December 31, 2012

Her Good Name

by Ruth Axtell

River North Publishers

It is 1890 in Holliston, Maine. Esperanza Estrada is a smart young woman born on the wrong side of the tracks, and surrounded by ten other siblings she is just another one of "those Estrada's." Unable to further her education because she has to work to support her family, Espy struggles to make her way in the world. Wanting to expose herself to a more cultured, refined environment, and desperately wishing she had a higher education; she leaves her job at the cannery and takes a job at a local teacher's home as a maid. 

Warren Brentwood III is the successor of his father's business, educated in the finest of colleges, and a gentleman. Only the finest life awaits him, with the respect and accolades that follow a successful business and family. But Warren doesn't feel the satisfaction of his accomplishments or the pride that his parents say he should feel. Yet when in the company of Espy, he feels alive and complete. So when rumors circulate about Espy and the respected professor, Espy flees the town, leaving Warren more alone than ever. Will Espy's good name be forever tainted? And will Warren ever be able to fill that hole in his heart that seems to grow ever wider in Espy's absence?

As usual, I had my doubts with a new author that everyone raves about. I don't want to be disappointed, so my expectations are pretty low when I try a new writer. But I was pleasantly surprised  to find that while the book did not have a lot of historic portrayal of the time period, (Axtell didn't go on and on about the when and where), she did have a lot of character development in her story. The tale started with two immature characters that you really get to know and understand at the story's end. You find yourself rooting for them, and hoping the best for everyone involved. A story with a message deeper than your typical Christian romance.

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

One Tuesday Morning

by Karen Kingsbury

Zondervan Publishers

Jake Bryan is a firefighter in New York City, and he has everything he ever needs to be happy in this life. A beautiful daughter named Sierra, and an amazing wife, Jamie. The only thing he lacks is the assurance of salvation for Jamie, but he never pushes her and seeks to guide by example. He has a promise from God - that Jamie will one day be a Believer, in her own time. When the events of 911 are at their zenith, will Jake be alive to see the transformation in his wife? Or is his death a part of God's master plan?

Eric Michaels is on top of the world. Executive to a big company, he has all the money and prestige he could ever want to be happy in this life. His beautiful wife Laura, and son Josh, live in the finest home money can buy, the best clothes, food, and provisions they will ever need. But all those earthly treasures can never make up for the lack of a husband and father Eric has become. When he never comes home after the 911 attacks on the World Trade Centers, did his greed of the almighty dollar cost him his life? Or is God at work in Laura's life in a way she never imagined possible?

This story was as heartbreaking as it was poignant. I have never read a novel where you are absolutely broken by the story, yet joyful for the outcome. This is a story of two very different families with the same basic needs. To love and be loved by each other, to personally know a Savior who will meet our needs and whom we can wholly trust, and a faith in the Father that He always knows best in the worst of circumstances. A story that will touch every part of you and strengthen your faith. 

A copy of this book was provided for free from Zondervan publishers in exchange for an honest review.

http://zondervan.com/9780310247524

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hood

by Stephen R. Lawhead

Thomas Nelson Publishers

Bran ap Brychan is the heir to the throne in Elfael. But when his father and all his military men are slaughtered, Bran disappears into the forest with a ransom on his head. The forest to which he flees is a living, breathing, mysterious wood complete with danger, secrets, and powers that he does not understand.

Unwilling to fight for what is rightfully his, Bran must make a decision: become the king Elfael needs to survive in the ancient Welsh lands, or let the Norman invaders take his land, his heritage, and his family's honor. Will Bran stand to defend what is his, or will he let his countrymen down and forever change the history of medieval Britain?

Let me begin by saying just how boring this book really is. Yes, the premise is interesting. Yes, it's a different twist on the story of Robin Hood. But it is the most boring book I've ever read. Maybe my reading comprehension sucks. Maybe my tolerance for names I can't pronounce without a guide (which I ended up pronouncing my own way anyway) is so bad I actually fall in the ignorant category. But by heavens, even Shakespeare is more exciting. So that said, I would recommend this book for those interested in Celtic mythology and folklore. The rest of you - read at your own risk.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Second Thief

by Travis Thrasher

Moody Publishers

After committing a felony, Tom Ledger boards a plane that changes his life forever. He escapes the crash with his life, but he can't seem to escape the mistakes of the past. Wondering why he lived and the man who sat beside him did not, Tom re-evaluates his life. What he sees is not much of a life; disconnected to his family and leaving the only girl he ever loved. In his climb up the corporate ladder, he has disregarded anything and everything that means anything to him. And somehow, he has lost himself. Is it ever too late to redeem yourself? Or can there truly be life after death?

The twist in this story came in it's final pages. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, Thrasher changed one crucial part of the story and suddenly everything was different. This book took me on a journey that was rich with excitement and made me care about Tom - even though he brought most of his troubles on himself. Watching him run away from the bad decisions that eventually ruined his life reminded me that in this life it is never too late to find redemption from the One who forgives and will change your life forever. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Blown Away

by Nancy Mehl

Barbour Publishers

Hilde Higgins is deathly afraid of clowns. When she finds out her boyfriend is a clown for a children's hospital, it's too late to rethink their relationship. But when Adam stands accused of killing two of his fellow clowns, she begins to second guess the man she thinks he is. Will their mutual friend Gabe be able to help her subjectively separate fact from fiction? Did Adam really kill his friends for money, or is he being framed?

This actually turned out to be the sequel to Missing Mabel, and I was very happily surprised to realize it was a continuation of a story that I was familiar with. Hilde is a down-to-earth gal that fixes the hair of the recently deceased, and the poor girl is constantly finding herself in one fix or another. She wears her hair with a purple streak down the middle, but I can't help but really like the girl despite her constant penchant for getting into trouble. Her casual, easygoing attitude is hard to dislike, and her love of everything and everybody is contagious. A very pleasant book to read anytime.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

To Whisper Her Name

by Tamera Alexander

Zondervan Publishers

Olivia is a widow of the worst kind in the city of Nashville following the Civil War that divided a great nation. Her husband, Charles Aberdeen is a traitor to the South, and Olivia is forced to live with the repercussions of his actions when the townspeople murder him and leave her completely destitute in the world. Having nowhere else to go, she packs up and heads for Belle Meade Plantation. Her mother's best friend, Elizabeth Harding welcomes her with open arms, even though the General reluctantly extends his generosity to the shamed widow.

Ridley Cooper made a difficult choice when as a son of the South, he donned the blue uniform of the Federal Army. Shunned by his family for the impossible choice he had to make, he is left with nothing after the war sweeps away everybody he loves. Determined to learn the skills of Belle Meade's horse trainer, he seeks a measure of peace for himself and desperately wants a new life out west. But the dangerous secrets he harbors threaten his plans for the future, namely, a certain widow. Will Olivia be able to accept who he is and where he is going? Or will the shadows of the past blind them both to the future that may await them?

Facing a book this size was a little daunting. But the more I read, the more I was immensely grateful that the author took the time to bestow us with such a stunning story of betrayal, faith, hope, and ultimately, love. I have read many a story of the aftermath following the Civil War. But this novel was a treasure to read, and breathtakingly accurate in its depiction of historical detail. I enjoyed every second I spent with this book. The characters will draw you to the story, and the plot keeps your mind in Alexander's re-telling of the past even when you don't have the book in your hands.

A copy of this book was provided for free from Zondervan Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thirsty

Tracey Bateman

WaterBrook Press

Nina is a recovering alcoholic that isn't having the best time recovering. Wanting to make amends with her ex-husband, Hunt, and her two children, she does her time in rehab and moves back to her childhood town. Taking her daughter Meg with her, Nina begins to clean up her life in earnest. 

But something that has been alive for 250 years is running rampant in the Ozarks. With a murderer on the loose, and her sister Jill (the town sheriff) trying to solve the cases in record time, they are all in danger. Struggling to stay sober from her addiction, and trying be be strong for Meg, Nina is unaware that her fight against dark forces may not be with herself after all. Will she realize the truth in time? Or is she going to loose her family despite her efforts to clean up her life?

When I plucked this book from my shelf, I had no idea what I was getting into. It wasn't until I was well into the story that I realized what was really going on. While this was the tamest vampire story I have ever read, the novel was redeemed in the story of Nina. I didn't see the need for the vampire twist in the book, nor did I care for that aspect of the story, but I was drawn to Nina, her family, and her childhood memories.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Soul Saver

by Dineen Miller

Barbour House

Lexie Baltimore is a sculptor that uses her talents in obedience to God's calling. Remembering the faces that she dreams of, she sculpts them to help them. But one day she sculpts a face that isn't an easy in-and-out mission like the others were. Instead, she embarks on a mission that is the biggest one she's ever taken on - herself. Will she be able to see the truth before it's too late?

Nate Winslow is drowning in the regret of the past. He has one mission and one mission only; to win Lexie's heart. She is a married woman that is shackled to an unbeliever, and Nate is the kind of man she imagines her husband Hugh, capable of being if he would only believe. Will the dangerous game he is playing endanger more than his daughter? Or is there more at stake than either of them realize?

This book was a little different than I'm used to reading. But I couldn't help but get sucked into the story, with it's page turning action and excitement. Miller really went out on a limb by writing this kind of story, and I have to admit I really got into it and was sad to read the final page. The simple humanity of the darkness portrayed in this novel is very down to earth and realistic, and it wasn't until the truth was revealed that I realized what was happening. A very compelling read and a fast paced plot.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Captain's Bride

by Lisa T. Bergren

WaterBrook Press

Elsa Anders is about to become the wife of Captain Peder Ramstad. Leaving her beloved Norway for the shores of Maine, Elsa wants to be more than just a captain's wife. She wants the adventure of the seas; see exotic places, painting the beautiful sights and vistas, and just being with her husband. Will Peder allow it? Or will his authority as captain spill over into their lives?

Kaatje wants to come to America to save her marriage. Her life, and the life of her unborn child depend on it. Karl Martensen has been friends with Peder since childhood. He fights his secret and impossible love for Elsa, but his emotions threaten to destroy everything they have set out to accomplish. And Tora Anders, the defiant yet seductive young woman that believes she can win the world with her woman'y wiles and wit. Will any of these immigrants find what they are looking for in America? Or is their fresh start an unreachable dream?

This book will take you on a wonderful journey, Once set your eyes to it's pages, you are sucked into the tale and there is no describing the agony of waiting to see what will happen to all the characters you've come to love. I have held my breath so many times in anticipation, stifled a gasp at another twist in the plot, that I feel silly for becoming so enchanted without so much as a look back. I read a lot of books, and I like to think that I can anticipate and know what happens next. This book stripped away all I know of fiction, and took me to the beautiful country of Norway, a magical voyage across the sea that became a mix of tragedy and joy, and finally brought me to the promised land. But so many questions remain. Bergren tells many character stories, but she is successful at making each person an unforgettable part of the tale, as real as the many immigrants that have docked at our shores.

A copy of this book was provided for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.





Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bella

by Lisa Samson

Thomas Nelson Publishers

Life just didn't turn out the way Jose and Nina had planned. Jose struggles with the guilt of his past despite the support of a big and loving family. Nina cannot get away from the memories of her childhood, and it is aiding her in making bad decisions. With no one but herself to take care of, she lives one day at a time, dreams of becoming a dancer a distant memory. Jose fights the the memories of the past, and Nina helplessly watches her dreams slowly slip away into the past.

But just one day can change a person's life, and when Jose steps forward to protect the naive Nina, they are both pleasantly surprised by the outcome. But can Jose's friendship be enough to help Nina make the right choice - especially when a lot more than dashed dreams are at stake? Will Jose finally find his place in the world, or is the past going to haunt his future forever?

This was a delightful book to read, despite it's short length. While I have not yet had the privilege of seeing the film version of this story, Samson gives a brief but pleasant overview of events in this novelization of the film. An enjoyable read with a wonderful cast of characters that mirrors the memories of my own family.

The Colors Will Change

by Louis N. Jones

Conquest Publishers

Carline Lissade is at the end of her proverbial robe. Living in squalor after her entire family is gone, and depending on the kindness of the poverty stricken people around her can only last for so long. Taking the last remnants of her courage, she goes to Port-Au-Prince and decides to sell herself in order to survive on her own. On her very first night, the man she goes with is not what he seems, and her bad decision puts her life in danger. Settling in a guest house, she then meets a senator who offers to help her immigrate to the Unites States. Despite the good intentions of those around her, Carline quickly discovers there is no hiding from the past. Will she be able to escape alive?

This book was not what I expected. I was expecting a slow read that would be chock full of political jargon from a country that I know little about. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was easy to read, with very uncomplicated language to convey to the reader exactly what was going on without any mumbo jumbo to wade through.

Now for the one thing that drove me crazy. Saints preserve us, the editing was awful. At first, I thought I wasn't paying attention and had made an error. But at least seven times in the text, the wrong name was printed. In most instances the same person kept having a conversation with themselves, and in two instances the name of a character that wasn't even present was there in the text instead of the correct one. At the very least, it made me pay attention, because I've never read a book where so many discrepancies occurred. While distracting, it was a very good story, and I even learned a little bit more about the country of Haiti.

This book was provided for free by the publisher through BookCrash in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sky Blue

by Travis Thrasher

Moody Press

Colin Scott is at the top of his game. Representing the biggest names in the publishing world, he works with authors in securing their loyalty - and their
manuscripts. But despite his success, he can't help but feel that life has fallen short of his expectations. His wife Jen, wants to have a baby, and no matter how much they try, their hopes die with the negative results every month. In time she drifts away from him, frustrated by the demands of their jobs, and their lack of emotional connection.

Finally, in a desperate attempt to re-connect with Jen and remember all the good things in life, he takes her on a romantic vacation in Cancun. What should have been a time to save their marriage ends up taking a disastrous turn. Obsessed with a manuscript he wants to make better, and distracted by the things he wants and has; the line between reality and fantasy becomes blurred. Will he ever be able to pull himself out of the miry pit that has been dug, or is it too late to save himself?

There are so many emotions I felt after reading this book, I don't even really know where to start. Being inside someone's mind for a big part of the novel was challenging. Not able to see things for myself, but relying on Colin's fragmented memories was hard. But even though I was warned he was headed for a nervous breakdown, I never saw it coming. I was so shocked to read the final pages, I felt as if I should just start over, see the evidence for myself. I was utterly transfixed by this book; completely confused, awed, surprised, and grieved all at once. A splendid book that will make you re-evaluate what is most important to you in this life, and a reminder not to take those we love for granted. Because once they're gone it is too late.    

Oliver Twist

Focus on the Family Radio Theatre

Tyndale House

Having read Oliver Twist all my life, and being an avid reader, not a listener; I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this, or simply listen to it for the sake of a review. How wrong I was!!! This dramatization of one of my favorite classics of all time was breathed into being by a cast of voices by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. I listened to it while driving, and it had me captivated from the very first moment the narrator began his introduction into the tale. I had to keep reminding myself it was an audio, not a movie, it was well done with not only the character voices, but the realistic background noises as well.

You can clearly see in your mind's eye every detail that is portrayed, and though I am not a visual person, (hence why I read) I was able to imagine through the cast's voices everything that was taking place. This full cast audio production captures the voice of 19th century England, and takes us back to a time and place where corruption was a frightening happenstance, compassion was scarcely found, and redemption an unattainable feat.

I received this audio book by Tyndale House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Reluctant Queen

by Joan Wolf

Thomas Nelson Publishers

Esther is a simple girl; an orphan alone in the world with her uncle Mordecai as guardian, and raised in  Jewish faith and traditions. One day, Mordecai has a dream that will change Esther's life forever - he dreams of the complete annihilation of the Jewish people. A solution to the problem comes in the form of the current king of Persia; King Ahasuerus.

When King Ahasuerus puts away Queen Vashti for refusing to appear at a feast, he is on the hunt for a new wife. Woman after woman is paraded in front of him, but no Persian woman catches his eye. Esther enters as a candidate soon after her uncle's dream, hoping the king won't even give her a second glance. She was wrong. Shortly after making her his queen, she is faced with an impossible choice that will forever change history. Save her people, or preserve the love that has blossomed between Ahasuerus and herself. Will telling him she is a Jew forever destroy any love the king has for her? Or will she be executed along with the rest of her people?

As usual, it's the little things that distract me from the bigger picture. The book was very good. I can't deny I laughed a couple times. But Mordecai calling his niece "chicken" was an abrupt and rude awakening to the Biblical time setting and brought the flow of the story to a halt. While the nickname is cute, it just doesn't fit with the time period. It somewhat disruptive to the story as a whole, though thankfully, there is a nice chunk of time where they don't see each other and it is absent from the text. As a whole, the story was entertaining and the love story between Esther and the king was a very satisfying read.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Love Finds a Way

by Wanda Brunstetter

Barbour Publishing

Three woman find love in unexpected places and ways. Lorna Patterson is a widow returning to college after ten years, and not interested in finding another husband. But culinary novice Evan Bailey is a determined and
persistent man, who won't take "no" for an answer. Can he get her to change her mind about re-marrying?

Shelia Nickels comes back to her hometown to pick out an antique doll after her grandmother offers all her granddaughters a treasure from her attic.Dismayed to find the doll missing, she and antique dealer Dwayne Woods fruitlessly search. Will Shelia be able to find the doll before it is gone forever?

Wendy Campbell thinks her father is the only man she needs in her life. But after he fakes 911 calls to get a certain paramedic Kyle Roger, to their home, will Wendy finally realize that she needs a life of her own?

As always, my gripe with Brunstetter is that her her stories are more like fairy tales; simplistic in language, bordering on unbelievable, and at times childish. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the stories in this book, but while many good books get you believe in the characters, Brunstetter just delivers a story. It is names, places and events put together, which I know will happen in a short story where things need to move very fast. While it is a nice collection of romances, it still falls flat like bread without yeast. I enjoyed it for what it was; an easy read with likable, (albeit fake) characters. A good book will make the line between fact and fiction blurry, if not obsolete. But all Brunstetter was able to accomplish is feel-good, trite romances that fail to draw you in and completely loose yourself.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Harvest of Rubies

by Tessa Afshar

River North

Sarah is proficient in many areas - she can read and write in multiple languages, she can keep complicated ans lengthy accounts, and has a quick and sharp mind. The only thing stopping her from great success is that she is a woman. But when her cousin Nehemiah recommends her to the position of head scribe to the queen, she is completely unprepared for the events that follow.

Sarah has always measured her worth based on her accomplishments; if she fails in any aspect of her work, she sees herself as a failure as well. So when her position as senior scribe is threatened because of her success as the queen's trusted account holder, she is, for the first time in her life, being measured for who she is as a person. With no complicated rolls of parchment and clay tablets to hide behind, will she attain her own measure of worthiness? Or does God has other plans for His child?

This was a wonderful re-imagining of a fictional character set in Biblical times. Afshar deals with something that we all struggle with at some point in our life; the measure of our worth. Despite the lack of  history Afshar had to work with as a background for her story, she does a marvelous job of re-creating the setting and bringing it to life. It was a story I could believe in and learn from, and an author that understands the very heart that beats in every one of us. Not only a recommended read, but one I will re-visit again and again.

A copy of this book was provided by Moody Press for free in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Glory of Green

by Judy Christie

Abingdon Press

Lois finally has her life - personal and at The Green News-Item under control. She is getting married to a wonderful man, Chris, and despite his odd collection in catfish items which come in every material known to man, she is touched when he gives his home away to a needy Mexican family. Things are coming together so nicely, she's even starting to get along with the puppy that Eva, the town mayor, gave her as an early wedding gift.

But it wouldn't be Green if the wedding came and went without a hitch. A major tornado strikes right after the vows are said between Lois and Chris; whipping the town like a smoothie and randomly destroying the homes in it's path. Many are left without homes, and the ones with anything left try to help those in need. With Chris having just given his home away, and Lois still trying to get back to her little place on Route 2, will the newlyweds have anything left? Or are they now one of the many homeless people in the town of Green Louisiana?

So many times an author will try to depict a disaster, or dire crisis and it can fall flat. But somehow Christie manages to make the most unbelievable fate fall upon her characters and it is so realistic and genuine you actually believe a series of unfortunate events can fall upon this one girl we love so much. The Green Series has done nothing but entertain and humor me from it's first words - give Green a chance and you too can taste from it's wonders.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Goodness Gracious Green


by Judy Christie

Abingdon Press

Lois is in her second year in Green, Louisiana and she is excited with her decision to keep The Green News-Item. It seems like things are finally starting to look up for her, and she's even met a special someone. The combination of fresh faith and strengthening friendships make her comfortable in the little town of Green, and any reservations she had left are gone with her old corporate job.

But then things start to go wrong again. The brothers want to buy their paper back. Fires seem to be breaking out everywhere and threaten the paper. Somehow, Lois gets her face bitten by the mayor's dog. Feeling like her enthusiasm for her new hometown is wilting, Lois needs some kind of encouragement to convince her she made the right decision. Will everything resolve itself for Lois and Green? Or will the latest developments be too much for her and send her back to Ohio?

I enjoyed the continuing story of Lois and all her friends in Green. All the characters are leaving an indelible mark in my mind, and it's going to be hard to forget them. Katy, an up and coming teenage journalist; Alex, the twenty-something official journalist of the paper; Eva, the mayor; Kevin, an African-American doctor and Lois's best friend; Iris, the secretary, the glue that holds it all together, and so many more good people in the wonderful town of Green. You will enjoy the visit.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gone to Green

by Judy Christie

Abingdon Press

Lois is a corporate journalist that just got a reality check. Forced to put her job on hold, she sets off for the small town of Green, Louisiana to run a small paper that publishes only two editions a week. She inherited The Green News-Item unexpectedly from a close colleague, and being that the poor man died before he could achieve his small town dream, she is reluctant to just sell it off before giving it a chance. Committing to an entire year in Green, Lois sets about finding her place as the new boss.

If only her problems were in the singular. She was expecting a small town full of friendly, happy people, and what she discovers almost makes her turn around and head back to Ohio. She finds her new home is in the outskirts of town, with virtually no neighbors. Before she can even get her bearings, she is facing prejudices, corruption, and the everyday struggle to keep the paper out of the red. But along the way she makes surprising friendships with the citizens of Green, and it almost makes it hard to leave when the year is up and she is preparing to sell the paper. Will Lois realize that a small town is where her heart really is? Or will the allure of her job back in Ohio be stronger than the people of Green?

I found myself believing these people were actually real. As if I was simply reading a re-telling of things that actually happened. This right here is fiction at it's finest. The story draws you in, makes you feel like you can jump in the car and just drive to Green. I can see the flattened newspaper rack Lois keeps hitting when she's in a hurry, I can see the flowers along Route 2, and I can see and feel the small town charm in my mind's eye.  A really good story that comes with four more books in the series. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have all five books before you start this one - you're not going to want to wait for more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Absence So Great



by Jane Kirkpatrick

Waterbrook Press

Jessie Gaebele's life couldn't be better. Armed with the knowledge to run her own photographic studio, she decides to help owners run their studios while they are sick with mercury poisoning. She steps closer and closer to owning her own studio, and she scrimps and saves until her goal is within her reach.

Despite Jessie's good intentions, it seems as if she is an impasse in her life. She cannot move forward with her studio plans, nor is she making progress with overcoming her infatuation with her tutor and mentor, F.J. Bauer. Is she truly a woman in a man's world, or is she capable of becoming her own person?

While this novel is better enjoyed after the first book, A Flickering Light, it stands well on it's own as well. While the end is predictable, the resolution and peace that is found by the characters is quite astounding considering the subject matter. F.J. Bauer's great lengths to pursuit of a woman he could never have is a little far-fetched to my mind, but some stories are too crazy to be made up. And this one was as close to the heart of the truth as Kirkpatrick could get. I commend her for tackling on such a feat; a fictional depiction and account of the true to life events surrounding her grandmother's life. A work well done.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Flickering Light

by Jane Kirkpatrick

Waterbrook Press

Jessie Gaebele is an amateur photographer in 1907, Minnesota. She loves nothing more than to take pictures of the beautiful landscape and the people she loves. When she is hired at the Bauer Studio to assist in developing photos and learning how to run the business, she knows she is headed in the right direction for her life and career.

There are hazards that come with the territory; the explosive powder used for lighting, and the toxic chemicals used for developing the prints. It is considered a man's profession, and life-threatening when the mercury poisoning hits. Yet Jessie works deftly and skillfully at every aspect of running a studio. What she can't seem to manage, however, is her attraction to the married F.J. Bauer. Will photography reveal the person she really is, or will it expose her for what she can never be?

I had mixed emotions about this book as I knew before I even opened the book that there was the undercurrents of a possible emotional affair between an older married man and a young woman. But despite all of that, I was pleasantly surprised with what I discovered. The author portrayed a perfect mix between the human fallacies we all are born with, and the power of forgiveness from not only those we love, but God himself.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Danny Gospel

by David Athey

Bethany Publishers

Danny lived a simple life with his family; singing in their gospel band to the point that the public referred to them as the "Gospel" family. He had it easy with his loving family around him, keeping him from harm and life's harder lessons. But as the years progress Danny's family members die off one by one, leaving only his brother.

Amid the tranquility of the small town in Iowa, Danny is a postman leading a rather disappointing life. Missing his family, the band, the farm upbringing, and haunted by memories of a happy past, he dreams a dream that changes everything. He dreams he is kissed by a woman in white, and he is enthusiastically sure she is his wife-to-be. Danny begins his quest to true love, sifting through the memories, trying to find his purpose in life and find where his future lies. But is he searching for something that can never truly be recovered? Or have the answers to life's difficult questions been before him from the beginning?

I didn't realize until I was part way through the book that there was something wrong with Danny. I won't spoil it for anybody, but he truly was a character I will never forget. The simple, yet complex way that he viewed the world was endearing, and made me want to slow down and smell the roses. Despite the loss of nearly all his family members, Danny endures; trying to salvage the good memories of the past and learning from the bad times. I really enjoyed this novel, despite the fact that I wished it would have been a little longer and less abrupt at the end. A good read overall.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

No Safe Harbor

by Elizabeth Ludwig

Bethany Publishers

Cara Hamilton is lured to America from Ireland by a letter from her brother. Relieved to know Eoghan is alive, she arrives in a strange, new land, anxious to find her brother. Despite Eoghan's warnings to speak to no one, she finds herself in a budding friendship with the tenacious Rourke Walsh. With Eoghan's words ringing in her ears, she proceeds cautiously with her new acquaintances. But before long, she realizes that things are not as they seem, and the land of opportunity quickly becomes the land of danger.

For every step Cara comes closer to finding Eoghan, she begins to trust Rourke a little more. But as the truth of her intentions in coming to America - and the truth about her brother - begins to surface; Rourke's real reason for getting to know Cara better threatens to be revealed as well. Will Cara and Rourke be able to find Eoghan? Or have the sands of time run out for both of them?

This wonderful novel comes to us from a well-known mystery/suspense writer, Elizabeth Ludwig. I loved everything about this book; the characters with the way they kept my interest in every detail of their lives, the setting of a young Irish woman coming to America, and the plot with it's twists and turns. I cheered with them when they succeeded, and I cried when they didn't. In the end, it was a very satisfying read, and I hope you will enjoy it every bit as much as I did.

A copy of this book was provided by Bethany House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Bridesmaid

by Beverly Lewis

Bethany Publishers

Joanne Kurtz has been a bridesmaid enough times it is actually considered unlucky. Being passed over by all the fellows in Hickory Hollow, she is practically an old maid in her Lancaster County community. As a secret writer, she longs for the opportunity to do more than huddle over her notebook away from the eyes of others. But Joanna has one more secret that may cost her more than her writing - something that has the potential to change her life forever.

Eben Troyer is determined to make Joanna his bride, just as soon as his younger brother, Leroy comes to his senses and returns home to claim the farm that Eben is working so hard to keep up. Eben and Joanna's future hangs in the balance as promises that once seemed so easy to make are no longer even possible. Will Joanna ever be a bride? Or will she continue to walk up the altar as a bridesmaid?

This second installment to Lewis's Home to Hickory Hollow series is a beautiful and charming novel  full of everything we love we love from this pioneer of Amish fiction. I felt as if I was reading about a place that was real, with characters as familiar as my own family. Getting to learn a little bit more of the Amish world from Lewis's eyes isn't the only reason why I would recommend this book; readers old and new will appreciate this novel for what it is. It is a breathtaking look into a place that exists only in our hearts, and will forever live on whenever a new reader is drawn into this captivating storyteller's spell.

A copy of this book was provided by Bethany House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

The Fiddler

by Beverly Lewis

Bethany Publishers

Amelia DeVries is a classical violinist that is unhappy with her life. Tired of keeping a secret from her family, and emotionally exhausted by practices and performances, she takes a little detour into Lancaster County. Her car decides to let her down deep in the mountains, and after her phone leaves her stranded she walks to the nearest house. She discovers an enchanting log cabin, and most puzzling of all, an Amish man inside.

Michael Hostetler is disillusioned with his family's expectations of him as well. He loves them, yet he just doesn't feel that he can follow their footsteps and make the lifelong commitment to the Amish church. After Amelia ends up on his doorstep, he recognizes they are in the same place in life. Inviting her to come along to Lancaster County to extend her impromptu road trip, both Michael and Amelia make more discoveries than  they ever bargained for. Will they ever be able to make decisions that honor Michael's heritage and Amelia's legacy?


Picking up my first violin at 3 years of age, I truly enjoyed this book. The details of Amelia's concerts, the authenticity of the musician "lingo", and every little violinist nuance made me feel as if she was an extension of myself, a character I could believe in. But I'm afraid that to someone who has no interest in a violinist's life, it may be overbearing tale filled with too much time devoted to things only a fellow string player would enjoy. So that being said, it was a very good book for me and one that I enjoyed. All the same, anyone that loves Amish fiction and Beverly Lewis will find this visit to Lancaster County a delightful one.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Gifted


by Ann Gabhart

Revell Publishers

Jessamine Brady knows her identity only as a young girl in her grandmother's cabin the Kentucky woods until the age of ten, when her grandmother passed away. From there, she is taken to the Shaker village in Harmony Hill. For the next ten years, Jessamine is brought up as a Shaker Sister, loving her brethren equally as taught by the Ministry. Curious about the world around her, Jessamine is often found to be in transgression when her disregard of the strict rules land her in trouble. On one such excursion, she finds a man left for dead in the woods, and she brings him back to her village. In the space of three weeks, Jessamine finds herself questioning the very principles and values that define who she really is. Will Tristan be the answer she seeks? Or will he be the very one that tears her apart from her faith and true salvation with the Believers?

A stunning and fitting end to the Shaker series, (if indeed, this is the last installment), it is a wonderful work in and of itself. While the longest book in the series, it was one I simply did not want to put down. I wanted to stay in the land of Jessamine's mind and innocence a little longer, to see things from her point of view. You will feel as if you are learning all these new things right along side her: her hopes, her dreams, her discoveries of life, the good and the bad. A novel rich in the life of yet another Shaker sister, well written, and drew me like a moth to flame.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Blessed


by Ann Gabhart

Revell Publishers

Lacey Bishop's life is in tatters. Alone in the world, she goes to work for a preacher and his wife, and so remains in their employ until the wife passes, her dear Miss Mona. Having no where else to go, she stays with the preacher and the little girl, Rachel that had been left on his doorstep years before. When the women in the parish raise a protest about the improper living conditions of a 20-year-old single girl living with the widowed preacher, Lacey is convinced that she has no other recourse. But even after their marriage, she cannot bring herself to be a true wife to Preacher Palmer. Distraught by his life falling into sin, Preacher Palmer follows the Shakers to their village in Harmony Hill, taking Lacey and Rachel with him. Once there, Lacey embraces the idea of a celibate life, but is confused by her feelings for a young brother named Issac. Will she ever be happy, or will she have to settle for just being blessed with the breath of life?

The one thing that I have to say I am relieved about in this story, is that despite the unnatural marriage of Lacey and the preacher it never truly came to fruition. I know it was due to the Shakers arriving at just the right time, and of course that is due to the writing of Gabhart. But it was a great relief when things turned out the way they did, and I have to admit this 4th installation to the Shaker series sucked me in just as hard and fast as the first three. This book breathes life to it's characters, and makes you feel as if you can take a little walk and simply go meet them. This is a story of a forgotten people in American history; and while we know that they are wrong in some aspects of their beliefs, we can appreciate what they contributed not only to history - but to every person they touched.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Seeker


by Ann Gabhart

Revell Publishers

Charlotte Vance is a southern belle that has everything she ever wanted. Money, position, a beautiful plantation full of servants, and a fiance that fulfills all her dreams. But that loving fiance lets her down when instead of marrying her, he joins the Shaker community. As if that wasn't bad enough, her politician father brings home a wife young enough to be Charlotte's sister, and that is more than she can bear. Frustrated by how her life is spinning out of control, she follows her fiance to the Shaker village to try to win him back. With the Civil War at it's beginning, Charlotte feels she is safe at Harmony Hill with the strange Shakers. But when a newspaper artist's correspondence keep her from fully committing to the Believers' way, she is torn between the safety and peace of "hands to work" and "hearts to God". Will she ever find her way?

The Civil War background of this story is a hard one to cover. So much can be said for the battles fought brother against brother, yet Gabhart condenses everything perfectly to get the main story across to us. It is the perfect blend of story line, characters, morality, and the natural curiosity that arrests us all in a life we do not know and may never understand. While the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing seem to be strange to us, they are a real people from the past. The recognition they receive in this Shaker series by Gabhart (despite the allowances she gave for the sake of fiction novels) is a tribute to the people that once were right here in our nation's history.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Believer

by Ann Gabhart

Revell Publishers

Elizabeth Duncan has run out of options. With her last living parent gone, two siblings to care for, and no where to live, she turns to the last hope that remains. Remembering the Shaker village in the next county that her father told them stories about, she packs up her brother and sister and presents herself and siblings at Harmony Hill. Despite the strange beliefs that swirl around them, she is relieved that the Shakers provide a roof over their heads in exchange for the labor of their hands. Even though they are provided for, Elizabeth finds herself attracted to a young Believer named Ethan. He is beginning to see her as more than a sister, and Elizabeth fears she will be asked to leave the village in order to keep him from sin. Will she be able to leave her siblings behind forever? Or will Ethan bring himself to acknowledge the love growing in his heart?

This was quite the tender love story, despite the oxymoron of a Shaker romance. Ethan was quite naive to anything and everything in the world, but curious, just like every normal child who knows nothing of the outside. Having grown up in the Shaker village keeps him from experiencing life as he should have, and he is very childlike even as a young adult. A good story line and an entertaining plot. I enjoyed everything about this book, and I really fell in love with all of the well written characters. I give it six stars.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Outsider

by Ann Gabhart

Revell Publishers

Since she can remember, Gabrielle Hope has had the unique ability to see visions that warn of things to come. So when she and her mother, Martha join the Shaker community on Harmony Hill in 1807, her visions are embraced as a gift from Mother Ann. But when her gift enables her to see an event that comes to pass, a doctor must be brought from the outside world to the one where the Believers strive to be separate in order to save a life. Suddenly, everything Gabrielle knows to be good, pure, and true is in question. Will she be able to turn her back on her brothers and sisters that she has found in the Shakers, or will the pull of the world tear her from the peace and celibacy she has promised to live?

This was quite the contradiction in a novel; a Shaker romance? Oh, but it is. In this unique, strange world the members of the community take a vow of celibacy, which clearly means that no children are ever born into the faith. Living a simple life of peace and harmony, using their hands for work, and giving their hearts to God is the foundation of the way they live. Despite the strangeness of these "shaking Quakers", Gabhart weaves a story unlike any other. You will be captivated by every emotion and situation the characters find themselves in, and spellbound by every word as I was. I highly recommend you buy the whole series, because having to wait for the next book is going to be impossible.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Missing Mabel

by Nancy Mehl

Barbour Publishing

The funeral home Hilde Higgins works for as a hairdresser is not in the habit of switching or loosing bodies. But when that's exactly what happens, Hilde promptly confronts the funeral home director and is accused of stealing the personal property of the deceased. Desperate to save her reputation and solve the mystery of the missing Mabel, she embarks on a journey to find the truth. Will an old beau be able to help her save her career? Or will the doer slip through the cracks?

This book was enjoyable from the very first page. Hilde has an unfortunate name, and the worst of luck when it comes to life - and love. Between her struggle with her interest in Adam, the "crazy" old man she tries to befriend, the strange happenings at the boardinghouse where she lives, and the chain of events that plague the funeral home, Hilde has her work cut out for her. It was a captivating mystery that kept me turning pages despite the predictable outcome.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nipped in the Bud

by Susan Sleeman

Barbour Publishers

Paige Turner is a landscaper that is thrilled to land a contract fixing up the park for the upcoming Pickle Fest in Serendipity, Oregon. But when she finds the mayor dead in a pile of her mulch in the park, she becomes the primary suspect in his murder. Her friends hire lawyer Adam Hayes to keep her out of jail and aid her in solving the case before it's too late. With no alibi, Paige sees no way out out except to find the killer herself. Is it the pharmacist who has something to hide about their former mayor? Or is it the librarian with a secret in her past? Or does the wife have any reason to make herself a widow?

This mystery was quite the amusing one, what with the name of Paige Turner and the Pickle Festival. I was quite bemused with the opening paragraph in each chapter, and the news station Paige gives gardening advice on is always getting the strangest callers. At first, I couldn't seem to get into the story. The beginning paragraphs confused me more than interested me, and the story felt as if it was moving slow as molasses. But somewhere before the half-way mark, it finally captured my attention and kept me all the way to the end. A good read, and a good mystery.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Camera Never Lies

by Elizabeth Goddard

Barbour Publishers

Polly Perkins is a photographer with a bad habit of hiding behind her camera and living life through it's optical image. Invited by her best friend, Rene, to the Oregon coast to photograph her long-awaited wedding; Polly finds herself tracking down a murderer instead when a body falls out of her mother's closet. Desperately seeking to absolve her mother of any guilt in the murder, she takes pictures to help solve the murder. Will Polly find the truth in time? Or will all the preparations for the wedding and searching for clues keep her from finding the killer before someone else gets hurt?

This novel in particular was indeed somewhat of a mystery for me, because there were enough suspects to keep me guessing the whole time. It was a fun ride, and I have to admit it was a very enjoyable read. I enjoyed the usual array of colorful characters that we've been getting from this lighthearted mystery series, and somehow I keep getting attached to the people I "meet" in these novels. A great read for a lazy Sunday afternoon between church services.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

May Cooler Heads Prevail

by Teri Dunnegan

Barbour Publishing

Dixie Tanner is from the little town of Kenna Springs, and as a psychologist, she takes pride in knowing she's made a name and good life for herself. That is, until her uncle gives her a call. Recruiting Dixie by taking her shocked silence as acceptance, her uncle talks her into coming home to help solve a murder. Reluctantly, she agrees to help absolve her aunt Connie of murdering her ex-fiance from forty years ago. But when she arrives she finds her relatives have taken things into their own hands. Will they find the murderer before the sheriff finds out what they are all up to? Or will the killer come for anyone who discovers the truth?

The characters in this book are not only charming and endearing, they are hilarious in every sort of way one can possibly imagine. I couldn't help but fall in love with the Tanner family, even in the short time I got to "know" them. While I dearly wish we could all read more books by this author, she has passed from this world to the next. This will, and shall remain, my favorite mystery novel that has just the right touch of everything.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Perfect Match

by Janice Hanna

Barbour Publishing

Annie Peterson is the average nosy town sleuth when the local matchmaker's building goes up in flames. Naturally, she can't stay out of it, so she begins a hunt to find the arsonist. Is Opal, the elderly widow that runs the service the culprit? Is it the disgruntled newspaper editor that married his "unfortunate match"? Is it the investigator that her son is seemingly enamored of? Or perhaps a client that has never found her perfect match? Will Annie and her friends find the arsonist before another fire breaks out and her son falls in love with the wrong woman?

This was a humorous mystery with all the right elements in it to make it fun and interesting. Annie kept me laughing with all her shenanigans, as well as her best friend, Shelia, who endeavored to be a sleuth like Annie. The best element of the story is reading about Annie's misadventures when she opens up her home to a menagerie of animals and the resulting disasters that happen as a result. A fun mystery that actually kept me guessing.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Through Every Storm

by Sharlene MacLaren

Whitaker House Publishers

Jeff and Maddie Bowman have lost the one thing they loved the most and held dear in this mortal life - their child. It seems as if all is lost to them; their life, their marriage, and their hope. Estranged from the guilt they harbor over Emma's death, and punishing themselves for the past, they are headed to a divorce faster than a crashing airplane. When it seems as everything is lost, a precocious boy enters their life. Will Jeff and Maddie be able to restore what is lost to them? Or did Emma's death forever cripple their ability to love again?

I was quite sad that I read this book so quickly. The characters became endearing even in so short a time, and little Timmy was definitely my favorite. The crisis this couple went through wasn't easy, and even though I hoped it would work out in the end, I couldn't help but hold my breath as the story unfolded. There were moments of tension, of joy, of pain, of tenderness, of sorrow, and so many emotions all rolled into one. A highly recommended book even if you cannot personally relate to the subject matter. I promise you're going to love it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Courting Emma

by Sharlene MacLaren

Whitaker House Publishers

Emma Browning is the owner of the only boardinghouse in Little Hickman Creek, Kentucky, and has been the proprietor for ten years. She plays housekeeper to several rowdy, uncouth characters, but lets no one past the tough exterior of a hardened facade. After enduring years of endless abuse from her father, Ezra she has been careful to ward off anyone and anything that tries to get past the impenetrable armor that stands guard of her heart. Will she ever let anyone in?

A new boarder shows up at her door in the form of the preacher, Jonathan Atkins. Will she be able to see past what she believes is his ministerial obligations and believe someone can love her? Or will Ezra's abuse forever scar her from being able to love?

This story was a first for me on the subject matter of child abuse. The setting in a prairie town in Kentucky just made me more willing to crack this book open and give it a go. One thing I'd like to note about this last book in the Little Hickman Creek Trilogy is that the characters are breathed life and seeped in realism because of their pasts. Reality dictates that everyone has a past - and more often than not, it is not a bed of roses. MacLaren brings this truth to fruition in this novel, and it is masterfully done. I even learned a thing or two....but then you'll just have to read the book.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sarah, My Beloved

by Sharlene MacLaren

Whitaker House Publishers

Sarah comes to Hickman Creek to be a mail-order bride, but when she arrives, Ben Broughton informs her he is in love with another, and offers to pay her way back to Boston. But Sarah refuses, insisting she was sent to Kentucky from God, for a purpose. Determined to overcome the obstacles that repeatedly present themselves, she puts her best foot forward and waits for God to direct her steps. She doesn't have long to wait.

Rocky Callahan was married once, with a fine son, but for reasons he doesn't care to understand, they were taken away. As if that weren't enough, his widowed sister dies, leaving behind two children that have no where else to go. Though unwillingly, Rocky takes the children in, disgruntled with his responsibility from the first day they arrived on the stage with the mail-order bride, Sarah. Drowning in self pity and despair, Rocky asks Sarah for a marriage of convenience, simply wanting a help for his dire straights. Sarah accepts, wanting to accept the will of God even when she cannot even begin to understand. Will their marriage in "name only" remain just that? Or will Sarah's unending faith and constant devotion win Rocky's hard heart and restore his faith in the Father?

So far, this is my favorite book in the Little Hickman Creek series. Sarah shows remarkable devotion to a man and family she owes nothing to, and quickly assimilates to the hard life of living in the country. As a refined, pampered city girl, I was surprised how she took to it like duck to water, with nary a complaint. Even though Rocky has become cynical and depressed, Sarah has a way of touching even the hardest person with her love and trust in God. I admire how MacLaren puts forth characters that are so easy to love, and very hard to forget.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Loving Liza Jane

by Sharlene MacLaren

Whitaker House Publishers

Eliza Jane Merriwether is excited about her new job as a schoolteacher in Little Hickman Creek, Kentucky. But when she first rides into the tiny, dirty town, she can't help but second guess her decision to relocate. Firmly believing that God wants her there, the little firecracker warms the heart of even the hardest citizen.

Benjamin Broughton is a widower raising two daughters alone, and not doing so well at it, to his thinking. He feels he's failing at raising his girls, and the thought that if he only had a wife to help him comes to mind daily. When the new schoolteacher moves in to his grandfather's house on his property, he keeps an eye on her - simply being a good neighbor. But when his feelings for her become more than neighborly, will the mail order bride he ordered take obligatory precedence in his emotions, or will Liza be the future Mrs. Broughton?

Liza showed remarkable gumption when she learned the town ran off three teachers in as many years, but she stuck to her guns, and her faith even when it seemed like coming, (and staying) seemed like the worst decision possible. The characters really stick with you, and makes you want to know more about each one of them. A very interesting story that kept my interest from the first page. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Finally a Bride


by Vickie McDonough

Barbour Publishing

Carly Payton returns to Lookout, Texas after being gone for a decade. In prison for much of that time, she is a changed woman that knows she is forgiven. Garrett Corbett is still single after all that time, and he is seeking an upstanding, virtuous woman for a wife. Knowing what he wants, yet attracted to Carly even before he realized who she was, he struggles to forgive her past. Will they be able to admit their growing interest in each other, or will Carly's ex-con past be the stumbling block that keeps them apart forever?

Jacqueline "Jack" Davis is all grown up, and not the slightest interested in men. Determined to make her name as a reporter, she will do anything to get the breaking news. When the temporary preacher, Noah Jeffers, rides in town, she can't help but feel she's known him all her life. Struggling her growing interest in Noah, and her decision to be a reporter in Dallas; she is completely unprepared when his biggest secret may come too late in time to save her heart from falling in love with him. Will the truth set Noah free, or has his biggest shame and secret become his undoing?

This is definitely my favorite book in the Texas Boardinghouse Trilogy. Jack is always sticking her nose where it doesn't belong, and Noah is forever trying to redeem himself for his unsavory past. The chemistry between Noah and Jack is undeniable, and it was a breathless experience reading how their story unfolded. Garrett was just about as stubborn as I expected, but of course, his end was completely predictable. It was an exciting, yet thought-provoking journey and there is not a dull moment within these pages.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Second Chance Brides


by Vickie McDonough

Barbour Publishing

Leah Bennett and Shannon O'Neil are stuck in Lookout, Texas with neither husbands or a place to call home. Ordered completely by accident by the two Corbett brothers trying to find a mail-order bride for their cousin and marshal, Luke Davis, the rascally brothers are ordered to pay the girls' room and board.

After the Corbett brothers host a social for young folks in the surrounding counties, the leftover brides have a daunting challenge ahead. Leah meets someone she could very well fall in love with. But will Dan's unexpected surprise following his brother's death be too much for her to handle?

Shannon is employed to keep the books by the Corbett brothers, being much too stubborn to live off of their forced generosity. But Mark Corbett is a hard man to work for, and she a shy, timid woman. Will Mark ever find happiness after his tainted past? Or will his attempts at protecting Shannon and his reputation ruin any chance the two of them have to be together?

As usual, Mark and Garrett come up with what they think is a solution to their problems - this time in the form of a young people's social. Thinking that the social will marry off the two girls and effectively getting then off their hands, they royally mess things up - again. No matter how much of a headache these two are, I have to admit that they are some very epic brothers. I love every shenanigan they pull, and the results are more entertaining than I might want to admit. If you want a story that will beg to be read again and again, then Second Chance Brides is for you .

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Anonymous Bride

by Vickie McDonough

Barbour Publishing

When Luke Davis returns as the marshal to his hometown of Lookout, Texas, he is taken completely by surprise by what he finds. Rachel Hamilton, almost his bride over a decade ago, is now a widow, with a spirited, spunky ten year old daughter, Jack. Luke refuses to forgive Rachel for her marriage to his friend James, and he makes the mistake of telling his cousins that he might marry if the right woman came along. Trying to help him out, his cousins order a trio of mail order brides to give him some variety to pick a wife from.

After a string of unfortunate mishaps and misunderstandings, Luke is finally ready to pick a wife. Will he be able to put the hurts of his past with Rachel aside and forgive her - or will one of the three mail order brides be "the one" for him?

I went to great lengths to get my hand on this book; despite it's recent publication date it went out of print a couple months ago. It was completely worth every penny I spent. This book was everything I'd hoped it would be, and more. The story line was engaging, and I enjoyed every character - even the bad ones. The time and the place was key to the charm of the story, but the best part of the plot was just reading every detail as it unfolded. I will be re-reading this book many times in the coming years.

Deployed

by Mel Odum

Tyndale House Publishers

Sergeant Lance Corporal Bekah Shaw is a dedicated mother and reservist Marine, trying to make a better life for herself and her son, Travis. When her team is activated to Somalia, she leaves her son behind to put everything she holds dear on the line for the sake of her country.

Rageh Daud has lost everybody and everything that means anything to him. Seeking revenge for the deaths of his family, Daud sweeps the desert killing anyone who stands in his way. Against his instincts, he becomes attached to an orphan boy that reminds him of his son. And when the boy's safety crosses the American military's path, both sides come together to do the unthinkable to achieve their mission.

Mel Odum takes us to the hot country of Somalia, where the day to day lives of our military becomes a reality. You can see the world through their eyes and feel everything they feel. You root for each one to succeed, even though they are constantly at odds. This book is full of action, a well written plot, with original, interesting characters that kept me turning pages. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and will recommend it to everyone I know.

A copy of this book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sarah's Choice

by Wanda Brunstetter

Barbour Publishing

Sarah was desperate to escape the Lehigh Canal in Pennsylvania. Forced to work the canal path by her father with no money in return, she runs away with Sam Turner and begins her married life in New Jersey. When the couple returns home, tragedy strikes and she is left a widow with three young children. Sarah is left with no choice but to run the lock that used to be Sam's livelihood. Baking bread and washing clothes for the canal men just to make ends meet, she struggles to keep her family afloat.

Elias Brooks inherits his grandpa's boat and the life that comes with it - a canaler on the Lehigh Canal. Despite his father's disapproval that Elias won't sell the boat, and thinking his grandpa wants him to run coal up and down the canal, Elias begins a life that he only glimpsed as a boy. While unsure of whether he wants to run the boat for the rest of his life, he is sure of one thing: Sarah and her little brood needs someone. Could that someone be him? And can they reconcile the fact that Sarah will never marry a canal man?

A charming end to a sweet story, and an easy read. As I've said before about this series, this is a book written in simple language yet a great story. It is a great escape from reality, and you feel as if you are a part of the people, the town and the canal itself. I had to hold my breath when it came down to the decision between Patrick and Elias - for one terrible moment I thought she was going to pick the wrong man. A recommended book and series.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Betsy's Return

by Wanda Brunstetter

Barbour Publishing

Betsy has become an old maid before she even realized it. After her plans to be a missionary were dashed, she stays in New York continuing what she believes is the Lord's work. After receiving news that her father was not in the best health, she returns to her childhood home in Lehigh Canal, Pennsylvania. Determined to care for her father till he gets better, she does everything in her power to help him.

William Covington felt the call of God to preach despite the well-to-do family he comes from. When the opportunity comes to preach in a canal town, he follows God's leading and direction and ends up in Lehigh Canal. Will Betsy be able to accept William as the town's new pastor in place of her father? Or will the old bitterness she used to harbor rear it's ugly head and ruin the way she relates to William?

Again, in very simple language, Brunstetter brings us a romance that is easy to read, fun, and entertaining. While the likelihood of falling in love so easily may seem unlikely, love comes in all forms, sizes, shapes, and ways in real life. And this historical portrayal is sweet and simple, a wonderful read for anyone who wants to travel back in time when things were simpler.

Kelly's Chance

by Wanda Brunstetter

Barbour Publishing

Seventeen Kelly McGregor walks her father's mules along the Lehigh Canal in Pennsylvania. Doomed to the poor life of a canaler's daughter, she dreams of the day she can paint with real colors and have her own art shop. Not interested in marriage as a way out like her sister in fear she will have the same fate, she is trapped working for her father with no pay in return.

Mike Cooper owns a a general store along the canal, and he is looking for a wife. Praying that God will provide him the desire of his heart, he is completely unprepared when he meets Kelly. Upon seeing the beautiful pictures she draws with crude charcoal, he quickly offers to partner with her to sell her works of art. But will Kelly be receptive to the love Mike is willing to offer? Or will her fear of having the same life as her parents in love keep her from making the decision her heart wants to make?

A simple, yet poignant story of a canaler's daughter that is romantic, full of fun, and easy to read. Brunstetter makes it really easy to sit down and forget about everything else going on around you and just blow through the book.  I enjoyed the simplicity of this romance, and even though it was meant to be sweet and short, it was actually believable and the characters were very endearing. A good read if you appreciate simple, solid, sweet romances.